Business Culture Health Legal Legislature Nation

Elgar case: Arrested activists being systematically denied medical treatment, claim family members

MUMBAI: The family members of activists arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case claimed they were “systematically” denied medical treatment and the condition of activist Vernon Gonsalves was yet another act of “criminal negligence” of prison authorities.

Gonsalves, arrested for his alleged role in the case, was recently admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai.

As per his lawyer, the activist he had been diagnosed with dengue and was on oxygen support.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held in Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.

One person was killed and several others were injured in the violence.

The case, in which over a dozen activists and academicians had been named accused, was initially probed by the Pune police and later taken over by the National Investigation Agency.

In a press note issued on Saturday, the family members of these arrested activists sought state intervention in the functioning of prison authorities to ensure speedy treatment to all “political prisoners”.

Citing Gonsalves’ condition, the press note claimed the medical treatment was delayed and that it was yet another act of “criminal negligence” on the part of authorities of the Taloja Central Jail in neighbouring Navi Mumbai, where he was lodged.

“Gonsalves (65) had fever on August 30, and even though his condition was steadily deteriorating, he was treated with just paracetamol and antibiotics in jail for almost a week.

After much pleading, he was taken to the JJ Hospital on September 7 and was given oxygen support,” the note said.

“However, instead of continuing his treatment, he was callously brought back to jail where his condition continued to worsen. It is only after his lawyer and wife, Susan Abraham, approached court and obtained an order that the prison authorities finally admitted him in the emergency ward of the JJ Hospital, where he is still under treatment,” it said.

The press note cited the recent deaths of several undertrial prisoners, including Father Stan Swamy, after allegedly being denied prompt medical attention.

“It has barely been a year since Father Stan Swamy, also an accused in the Elgar case, passed away while still a prisoner after being denied prompt treatment following COVID-19,” it said claimed.

“Similarly, it was only very recently that we heard the shocking news of the death of Pandu Narote, a 33-year-old Adivasi, in Nagpur jail where he was convicted under various UAPA charges for having Maoist links,” the note said.

Narote’s lawyer also alleged that his death was caused due to gross negligence by the prison authorities, the note alleged.

Talking about poet-activist Varavara Rao, another accused in the case, the press note said he too was subjected to inhuman treatment in jail where he was denied proper medical care in spite of his age and various serious ailments.

It was only last month that he could acquire medical bail from the Supreme Court.

The others accused in the case have also been systematically denied medical treatment, the note said.

Their family members demand that the state immediately and urgently intervenes in the functioning of prisons so as to ensure speedy treatment to all “political prisoners” such as Gautham Navlakha, Dr Hany Babu and others, the note said.

“We also demand the immediate release of political prisoners who are languishing in jail as undertrials for years.

If the state is incapable of guaranteeing their safety and security in prison, it would be better that courts intervene to grant bail to these political prisoners so that their precious lives are saved,” it said.